Is Building Construction Approaching the Threshold of Becoming Unsustainable: A Systems Theoretic Exploration towards a Post-Forrester Model for Taming Unsustainable Exponentialoids

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Fernandez-Solis, Jose Luciano
Thomas, Linda
Augenbroe, Godfried
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The construction industry is a major emissions contributor and a main resource consumer. Because of this, the industry is formulating short and long-term 'sustainability targets'. The trend points towards an unsustainable future, within the next 75 years, due to actual and projected increases in resource consumption and emissions generation in response to global population growth, and improving living standards, affluence. There are no reliable studies that predict whether the required reductions in ecological impacts can actually be realized, and if so, on what time scale. In fact, currently no available system representations of the industry can serve as the basis for studying long-term sustainability through the twenty-first Century. Hard dynamic systems, based on reductionism, are no longer adequate representations to study the dynamics of complex systems. A worldview that includes complexity requires foremost a philosophical induction (a theory) of the nature of all the forces that move the industry and a mechanism for understanding how complex forces aggregate and affect growth. The dissertation examines the current understanding of the Theories of Complexity in general, and in building construction, as preparation for a deeper understanding on how sustainability and its opposite, exponential growth (or "exponentialoid") relate. Guaranteeing sustainability transcends the current arsenal of counter measures such as LEED, high-performance measures, waste containment, conservation, lessening demand, renewable resourcing, greening of the industry, creation of high-performance buildings, penalizing the polluter, carbon trading, and others… Sustainability is re-framed as the (artificial) force that tames an unsustainable exponentialoid. Sustainable forces are represented by elements of influence acting like vectorials that appear to have identifiable origin, direction and magnitude. A hypothetical example of how the heuristic/theory works is presented, pending future studies (needed to supply the necessary data required for a working model). This is pre-paradigmatic work, using both a novel worldview and method of analysis that points to increasingly detailed research work to be performed in the future.
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